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Asking the right questions makes you a better communicator

22 March 2018 - 07:00 By EvenMe
123RF/Jean-Paul Chassenet.
123RF/Jean-Paul Chassenet.
Image: 123RF

Questions are everywhere. Questions are a powerful way to get information from people. The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is a priceless skill that could fast-track your journey to success.

For example, an employee comes to you and tells you there is a problem. In order to come up with a workable solution, you need to ask questions to get all the pieces of the puzzle as well as find out from the employee, who is closer to the work, what they think the solution should be.

Powerful questions like these, will help you make better decisions:

  1. What happened exactly?
  2. Why did this happen?
  3. When and where did this happen?
  4. What led to this?
  5. What are the possible solutions and outcomes for this?
  6. Who can help?

If you get this information upfront, you will be able to help your employee to come up with a solution for the problem. Don’t resolve the problem yourself, instead lead your employee to the best solution by asking questions.

This way he will feel responsible for the resolution and won’t feel like he is doing this for you. He will also feel good about himself when it’s all fixed and back on track.

So, as a leader, you become a facilitator as opposed to the one who fixes problems. With time, your employees will come to you with the problem and the solution for your approval – which will free up a lot of your time.

But questions aren’t always related to problems. Whatever the task at hand, turn it into an answer-seeking session instead of an order to do things.

Here’s how you can apply your questioning skills to a new project you’ve been assigned:

  1. What are the objectives of the project?
  2. How much time have we got to do this?
  3. How much budget have we got to do this?
  4. Who are we presenting to?
  5. Who needs to be involved in the project and why?
  6. What is the process we will follow to achieve this?

Jointly, as a team, you can answer these questions and that will be your project plan worked out! Everybody involved will come in at the beginning so they don’t feel like they’ve been lumped with more work, they are a part of the project.

Asking powerful questions involves listening effectively

The secret behind asking powerful questions involves listening to the answers more carefully. This means that when you ask an important question, you need to be willing to listen to the answer, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing.

You must let go of your personal ego. Your opinions can block you from learning the answers to these important questions. If you fail to put your ego aside, you could end up judging the person giving you the answers. Once you start doing this, you’re on the back foot.

Three characteristics of useful questions

  1. Open ended questions. These are questioned that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. They force people to think about the answers before they give them
  2. Good questions create clarity. It is important to shape your question so that you get all the answers you need. It helps you to discover the root cause of problems so that you can develop strong solutions.
  3. Powerful questions show genuine interest. Ask questions that will let you know how people feel. This helps you to gain a better understanding about what they think and why they think it. It helps you to build trust and instills confidence.

Three ways to improve your questioning skills

  • Stop and think before you speak. Before you ask any questions, ask yourself. Do I know the answer to this question? What do I want from this question? How will it add value to my life? How can I use this information to my advantage?
  • Plan your questions carefully. You don’t want to come across like an interrogator from the FBI. By planning your questions, you’ll benefit from the situation without upsetting the person you’re questioning.
  • Give the person enough time to answer your questions. People are more willing to interact with you if you show interest. So, when you’re asking a powerful question, give the person enough time to finish their answers.
  • Ask the right question at the right time. Timing is everything. So don’t ask people questions when they seem edgy. If someone is under pressure, chances are, they won’t think clearly and will rattle off an answer just to get you off their back.

Asking powerful questions will make you a powerful communicator and will lead to success.